Embrace the cold front

Patrick Pierce loves cold fronts.

You read that right. He loves them ... looks forward to them, enjoys them and expects to profit from them in tournaments.

Pierce is a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens pro and a fisheries biologist by education and trade. He's lived most of his life in Georgia and Florida, where cold fronts are notorious for turning off the bass bite like nonchalantly flicking a light switch. Nevertheless, he loves a good cold front ... especially when he's competing in a bass tournament.

"There are two reasons I like cold fronts so much," the Star brite pro says. "One is about the fishing and other is about the mental side of competition."

What Cold Fronts Do to Fish

We all have a vague notion of how cold fronts affect bass and bass fishing. They turn good or great fishing bad, make bites come far less frequently and generally make for struggles on the water. Pierce, though, is optimistic that he can make the most out of post-frontal conditions.

"Bass react to cold fronts in very predictable ways, and cold fronts put fish in predictable locations," he says. "The fishing may get tougher, but the bass are still there. They're not often going to swim very far away, especially when they're cold."

Instead, they change position and activity level. If they were active before, they're likely lethargic after the front. A 6-foot strike zone and a chasing bass before the weather changes can quickly become a 6-inch strike zone and a bass you have to hit on the head to draw a strike.

"Different species of bass and bass in different types of waters react differently to cold fronts, but their reactions are predictable," Pierce notes. "In Florida, where I live, they tend to go to the heaviest vegetation they can find between the spawning flats and the main lake.

"On reservoirs, bass respond to a cold front by moving to vertical structure like bluff walls, channel bends or deep riprap. On rivers, I usually find them around deep shell beds."

Pierce is primarily speaking about largemouth bass here. He admits that smallmouth and spotted bass are wild cards and can react unpredictably to a front. He's even seen a cold front seemingly turn these fish "on" and suspects it's due to the fact that they're not shallow water-oriented like their largemouth cousins.

In fact, on waters where multiple bass species are available, Pierce will often switch from largemouths to spots or smallmouths after a front, targeting the fish that tend to be less impacted.

"For largemouths, though, a cold front is almost always going to make things tougher. You'll really need to focus on your area, figure out where the fish have moved — if they've moved much at all — and concentrate on making your very best presentations and multiple presentations to the same piece of cover or structure.

"Generally, you should run around less. Be more persistent. Fish in the moment rather than think about where you're going next. Bass are opportunistic feeders; if you want them to bite after a front, it's your job to create that opportunity. If they're there, you can make them bite."

What Cold Fronts Do to Anglers

"If you listen to a lot of tournament anglers, you'd think that practice is always beautiful and the fishing is great until a cold front blows through the night before competition begins," Pierce says, adding "I really wish that was true!"

He loves the addition of a strong cold front to the tournament mix because of what it does to his fellow anglers state of mind.

"If the weather gets tough, half the field is eliminated before they even launch," he says. "It shows in their effort level, you can see it in their eyes, in their movement and in the way they talk. A lot of them are thinking more about their next cup of hot coffee than their next cast."

Then there are the savvy veterans who are eager to get out there and take advantage of the deleterious effect the weather is having on the competition. It pays — literally and figuratively — to be part of that group.

"The other thing I like about cold fronts in competition is that it helps to reduce the luck factor," Pierce says. "When the weather's nice and consistent, a guy who's never been on the lake could stumble across a bunch of fish and win with them. But once the front blows through, he's got to figure those fish out all over again, and that takes a lot of skill.

"A cold front takes active fish out of play. It benefits what I like to call the 'real' fishermen — the ones who can relocate fish quickly, stay focused and execute flawlessly on what might only be a five- or six-bite day."

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